It’s not just a reference to the group of people you shared a home with growing up.
It’s a feeling, a sense of belonging that most athletics teams strive for. It’s conveyed in support, friendship, love for one another.
What about when you combine both ideas?
Last season five different St. Cloud State University swimmers had parents who also swam for the program simultaneously in the early 1990s, showcasing the multi-generational talent that the Huskies take pride in.
Jeff Hegle ’93 has been the head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams for the past 23 years, a key figure in building a positive team culture that can span decades.
“Kids want to go where they know where they’re going to have a good experience,” Hegle said. “It’s helpful to know the parents, who know what our program is about.
“The talent level has improved so much, and the number of good, quality student athletes. Swimmers and divers want to be around kids who are successful and fast.”
That competition has generated some of the strongest team performances in history. The women’s team has won conference titles five times in the past decade, annually sending athletes to the Division II national meet. The men’s team finished 13th at nationals in 2023, nearly their highest finish in the program’s 58-year history.
But awards aren’t what makes the SCSU program special.
“It’s not just all about swimming,” Hegle said. “It’s important to us that the kids have good balance. That’s refreshing for a lot of kids, who come from where swimming has been their whole life and it defines them. There are also other things in life that are important.”
BEING A HUSKY
Hegle’s daughter Caitlin was convinced she wouldn’t attend SCSU. Her dad had been the Huskies head coach her entire life, and she was ready to make her own path. But the moment she stepped on campus for an official visit, her perspective quickly changed. She knew she would be a Husky.
“What’s cool is I have a different perspective than a lot of student athletes,” Caitlin Hegle said. “I saw the coach side of it way before I saw the athlete side, since my dad started coaching the year I was born. I knew the heart and effort and passion that my dad put into this team, I knew what that looked like.”
Whether it was having 70 people in her childhood home for team dinners every few months or seeing her dad work 60- plus hour weeks during the season, Caitlin believes no one is more hardworking than Jeff Hegle.
And that type of leadership tends to rub off on a team.
“He does it all while encouraging others and being a great role model and great person,” Caitlin said about her father. “Not many people are like that; I’m lucky enough to not only be his kid but have him as a coach.
“Being a Husky is defined by this team. The hard work, passion, dedication and love for one another; I’m willing to do just about anything for my teammates.”
Those teammates only get to compete directly against each other once each year in the leadup to the regular season at the highly-anticipated red vs. black intra-squad meet.
Hundreds of signatures adorn the red team’s massive flag, making it hard to distinguish specific names.
But the name Pete “Meat Head” Travis stands out in bold blue letters. Over 20 years later the name Olivia Travis was added directly below in 2018, and four years later the name Amelia Travis made an appearance.
Their mom Andrea ’94 ’12 is the lone Travis to compete on the black team, creating a friendly rivalry between the family.
Pete Travis ’95 ’01 was an All-American in the 200-freestyle relay in 1992, joined by Dave Hobza. Hobza was a two-time All American in 1991 in the 100 and 200 Fly.
Nearly 30 years later, Dave’s daughter Ashton Hobza ’23 and Pete’s daughters Olivia and Amelia were also able to swim together on the same team. Coach Jeff Hegle was a captain on the 1991-92 team, and his daughter Caitlin swam multiple years with Ashton and Olivia at SCSU.
“Being able to swim with a teammate whose dad was with my parents was crazy; it’s just the coolest thing ever,” Olivia Travis said.
Another former teammate from the early 90s, Chuck Jacobs ’93, saw his son Nick Jacobs begin as a Husky last year on the men’s team.
SCSU swim and dive alumni are clearly proud of their program. The men’s and women’s teams rank near the top for annual giving in the alumni challenge, having the second and third most donors of any SCSU team in 2022.
And to see a former friend and teammate taking that same program to new heights? Who wouldn’t want their child to experience that same feeling?
“You spent so much time together and you took care of each other; it really became such an important part of my life,” Andrea Travis recalls. “It taught me a lot … Jeff has established such a strong community there.”
BLAZE YOUR OWN TRAIL
With parents Pete and Andrea both enjoying long tenures as high school swim and dive coaches, Olivia and Amelia Travis were around the pool deck their entire lives.
Four years apart in age, the only two years the sisters competed together at the high school level were Olivia’s final two years at Dassel-Cokato while Amelia was still a middle schooler.
After setting multiple school records that still stand, including in the 100 backstroke, Olivia had to decide where to go to college and continue her swim career. But she knew one thing for sure: she didn’t want to go where her parents graduated.
“I just remember my parents saying go try it out and see … I fell in love with it,” Olivia Travis said. “My coach made me feel like I really was going to be taken care of, he’s like another dad … when I had that feeling that this is where I’m meant to be for my college years, it felt right.”
She almost never made it to the college level. Between her freshman and sophomore year of high school in 2015, she suffered a compound fracture of her tibia and fibula. A rod was put in her leg, and while she could still swim, it was unclear if she’d ever be able to compete at her previous level.
“Being a Husky is defined by this team … The hard work, passion, dedication and love for one another; I’m willing to do just about anything for my teammates.” — Caitlin Hegle
But she was determined, managing to be back in the water that fall and qualifying again for the state meet.
“For her to overcome that she worked very hard; for her to get to the level she did at SCSU was pretty phenomenal,” her dad Pete said. “She has resiliency, and SCSU has built that with her. For her to make it to nationals and podium multiple times at conference, it goes to her dedication and what Jeff does with the program. The coaching staff is top notch.”
After a successful four-year career, Olivia graduated with a degree in communication sciences and disorders in 2022. Staying at SCSU for her master’s program to become a speech-language pathologist, she had a decision to make.
Would she keep swimming as a graduate student in 2022-23?
“What came down to my decision was getting to swim in college with my sister,” Olivia Travis said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity … to not only be with my team again that I love very much, but be able to experience college swimming with my sister. I think that was one of the best decisions I’ve made because of how close we’ve been able to be.”
And it nearly never happened. Without a shortened season due to COVID-19 in 2021, Olivia likely would’ve already been done with swimming by the time Amelia arrived at SCSU.
While Olivia was initially hesitant about becoming a Husky, Amelia never had a doubt.
SCSU was the only school she visited before committing to swim in late spring of her senior year. Any negativity she received about following the same path as her parents and sister were quickly pushed aside.
“Just because I’m going to the same school as my parents and sister and swimming doesn’t mean I’m not my own person,” Amelia said. “I’m still going to have my own experiences and choosing what I want to do with my life. I’m really happy with all of the decisions I made … the team really is like family.”
Olivia and Amelia’s parents were thrilled they had a full season to watch both daughters compete together. Able to shed their usual roles as coaches, they could truly be swim parents and travel the Midwest each weekend following both their daughters.
That culminated at SCSU’s conference meet, where Olivia completed her final race as a Husky. The tears had already started flowing during her last 25 yards, and after finishing, she scanned the crowd for her parents.
She gave a bow. A career complete.
“Now I get to join the party; I get to travel with my parents and just watch, so I’m excited for that.”
Amelia was able to come straight up to her for a hug, creating a memorable photo: two sisters embracing post-race, with so many emotions tied to that moment.
It mimicked a similar moment earlier in the year at the St. John’s meet, with Amelia being congratulated after dropping huge time in one of her races.
“I think those two pictures of us … are probably my two favorite we’ll ever get of us,” Amelia said. “Those were our raw reactions; having that sister moment.”
Amelia made huge strides her freshman season, surpassing what herself or even her coaches could’ve predicted. She displayed dedication and a hardworking mentality that instantly impressed her old sister.
Having her sister’s support was a benefit every step of the way.
“Knowing that she was going to be there at the end of my races was always super comforting for me,” Amelia said about her older sister. “I knew that no matter what, she would be proud of me and come up to me and hug me … even though she was focused on her own races, we were always there for each other.”
“I’m struggling with thinking of my team coming back and not doing what I’ve done for five years,” Olivia added. “But the experience of my fifth year was the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Amelia’s Instagram caption after that last meet was simple: One Travis left.
But she won’t be alone.
With family as big as SCSU Swimming & Diving, she will have a multi-generational pack of support cheering her on.
“This team really is like family.” — Amelia Travis